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I should be "disqualified" from teaching, argue two professors in The New Republic
All those who—like me—are making "false and morally repellent claims" should NOT be granted academic freedom
The New Republic (whose TV critic I once was) has published an attack on my “pseudoscholarship,” by Michael Bérubé and Jennifer Ruth, he an English professor at Penn State, she a professor of film studies at Portland State. The piece has been adapted from It’s Not Free Speech: Race, Democracy and Academic Freedom (published by Johns Hopkins University Press).
Though I decided to ignore it, friends have urged me to respond, because the shots against myself are at the service of the authors’ toxic argument that academic freedom should be limited to those who don’t take issue with the propaganda narratives put over by the media: Bérubé and Ruth find patently absurd, and somehow very dangerous, my disbelief in the official story of 9/11, my view that the courts ought to adjudicate the question as to whether Sandy Hook went down as advertised, my observation that Black Lives Matter has been funded by the Ford Foundation (a longtime CIA pass-through), and my statement that the “vaccines” are an “inhuman witch’s brew of nanoparticles, human DNA (from fetal cells), and toxic adjuvants,” created and distributed in furtherance of a globalist agenda.
“If Miller is indeed teaching such material in his courses on Mass Persuasion and Propaganda,” the authors write, “we think he should be treated identically to someone who tells students that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a reliable source.” Since I know quite a lot about the Protocols (and lost nine cousins—that I know of—in the Holocaust), I find that sentence not just intellectually vulgar but offensive; though I’m less offended by that cheap shot than I am by the authors’ thesis—and its publication by an academic press—that professors who depart from a consensus pumped out by the government, and parroted by all the media, should be “disqualified” from higher education.
Since they have likened me to a proponent of the Protocols, I here return the compliment by noting that their argument would certainly have gratified the Nazis—who, throughout the early Thirties, laughed off true accounts of their brutality by calling them “atrocity propaganda” floated by “the Jews.” Thus Bérubé and Ruth don’t bother to address the points that they find so outrageous on their face, but simply jeer them as “conspiracy-mongering” (a tactic crafted by the CIA). Just as “good professors” under Hitler would accept as true whatever Dr. Goebbels’ press asserted (as “good professors” did under Soviet rule), so do these two treat as Gospel everything they’ve soaked up from the New York Times, whether it makes any sense or not, and even if (just like the Protocols) it’s been repeatedly, and totally, debunked.
Thus they call my heretical positions “manifestly falsifiable,” which means they need not bother to explain exactly how they’re false; and I suspect the reason why they don’t is that they can’t, because they haven’t felt the need to study any of the issues that (along with many others) I have raised, and for which they seem to think I should be fired, and so should anybody else who dares contest what Bérubé and Ruth just know is true, because the Gray Lady told them so.
When two such “good professors” solemnly insist that others’ academic freedom be abridged, to suit the narratives in which they fervently believe, and that demand is published as a book by a prestigious academic press, and featured in The New Republic (once upon a time a staunch defender of free speech), we need to call them all out for the mortal threat they pose to academic freedom, and American democracy itself.
(p.s. Although the judge in my libel suit did indeed grant my colleagues’ motion to dismiss the case, I am appealing that decision, and expect to prevail. I will post more about this matter in the coming weeks.)
When Professors’ Speech Is Disqualifying
Should academic freedom really protect those who make false and morally repellent claims? It’s time for a rethink.
Pseudoscholarship knows no party affiliation, and the arguments of Joy Karega and James Tracy should be subject to the same scrutiny we’re applying to Mead. As if to make our case for us, renowned leftist media theorist Mark Crispin Miller has for many years offered an impressive array of “alternative” accounts of reality, from 9/11 and Sandy Hook to the little-known “fact” that Black Lives Matter is funded by the CIA. In the era of Covid-19, Miller has turned the volume up to 11, proclaiming that the vaccines are an “inhuman witch’s brew of nanoparticles, human DNA (from fetal cells), and toxic adjuvants” and warning all and sundry of the global eugenicist conspiracy being carried out by Bill Gates, George Soros, the Rockefellers, the House of Windsor, and Ted Turner.
If Miller is indeed teaching such material in his courses on Mass Persuasion and Propaganda, we think he should be treated identically to someone who tells students that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a reliable source. But instead, what happened to Miller at NYU was that in 2020 his colleagues called for an “expedited review” of his alleged “intimidation tactics, abuses of authority, aggressions and microaggressions, and explicit hate speech.” In 2021, Miller was cleared, and declared victory over the forces of woke oppression; he sued his colleagues for defamation, and that suit was dismissed in February of this year.
But there is a crucial question here. Mark Dery asked it in his Chronicle of Higher Education essay on Miller: “Why did his colleagues, in the letter that provoked his lawsuit, focus not on his seeming disregard for core academic values like intellectual rigor and objective fact, at a moment when the very notions are under assault, but rather his alleged ‘hate speech,’ ‘microaggressions,’ and transphobia?” The answer, we propose, is that NYU has an office and a procedure for dealing with hate speech, microaggressions, and transphobia. It does not have an office or a procedure for dealing with faculty whose teachings violate every standard of legitimate and responsible research. And so Mark Crispin Miller’s case was adjudicated by means of a category error, as if the real problem is his allegedly nasty attitude and transphobia rather than his manifestly falsifiable conspiracy-mongering.
That is why universities need academic freedom committees: to differentiate between professors’ high-value and low-value speech, and to determine whether a professor’s beliefs can be, at an extreme, disqualifying. That is how we can maintain the academic integrity of academic freedom.